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Intuitive Eating: A New Approach to Health Club Membership Retention

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What is intuitive eating and how might it be the revolutionary approach to improving gym membership retention?

It’s very clear people have a hard time sticking to diets and meal plans because if they did, there would never be a need for resolutions. This is the reason people are talking about intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating has become quite a buzzword on social media lately, but if you search it on Instagram you may find yourself very confused about how it could be something that helps people create a healthier approach to food. The hashtag alone generates many pictures of donuts, cheeseburgers and bagels. How could a way of approaching eating that allows foods such as those actually be healthy? More importantly, why should health and fitness clubs know about intuitive eating and use it to help their members be more committed to a “healthy lifestyle?”

So what is it? Intuitive eating is a self-care approach to food made up of 10 guidelines that focus on making healthy decisions about what is best for an individual’s body. All foods are allowed – there are no good or bad foods and the amount of food to eat is determined by the person, not counted, weighed or dictated. So just let people eat whatever they want to be healthier? How could that ever work?

Intuitive eating presents an evidence-based case built on the psychology and biology behind our relationship with food which is pushing us to overeat, binge on sweets and using exercise to compensate for our eating. Intuitive eating demonstrates when you don’t make foods off limits or label them as bad, those foods become less desirable. Just think about your relationship with broccoli. Have you ever run to the fridge late at night for some raw broccoli? Unlikely, because broccoli is seen as a virtuous food that is always allowed.

Inherently, we were all born with the ability to self-regulate how much we need to eat. The restriction of food intake physically and mentally leads to overeating and binge eating because severe calorie restriction leads to decreasing fullness hormones and production of hunger hormones. We are mentally dissatisfied and all consumed with what we can and can’t eat. 

Instead of creating rules to eat by, intuitive eating encourages practicing daily self-care. And part of that self-care includes being mindful while eating and choosing foods that bring about satisfaction, mentally and physically. This is achieved by asking questions such as:

  • If I were to eat a donut how would that feel in my body?
  • Would 10 feel good?
  • Would it feel good to eat 10 every day for a week?
  • Would a donut give me the energy I need for the day?
  • Would I feel good before a workout?

When questions like these are asked, it allows the person to make decisions about food based on their own awareness and sensations in their body. Intuitive eating asks questions like these that allow us to understand our mental and physical being. It brings balance to our lives, takes the stress away from eating and brings joy back to food. Veggies become enjoyable again and proteins and nutrient-dense foods are encouraged because they make our bodies feel good.

If gym goers had a more balanced approach to food and prioritized self-care – which includes regular movement – wouldn’t they be more likely to want to come to a gym consistently? Would they view their health as a priority and a journey, and become more likely to want to be a lifelong gym member? I would say so and intuitive eaters would say so. Intuitive eating might be the revolutionary approach to improving membership retention because it allows people to enjoy the process of being healthy.

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Erin Lotta

Erin Lotta is a certified personal trainer and holistic nutritionist. Learn more at erinlottafitness.com.

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